The History of Sales Enablement

The History of Sales EnablementBy Jillian Eyl (@MsBiz_Chicago

Just a few years ago, Sales Enablement was a term used only by early-adaptors.

Today, Sales Enablement has made its way into the mainstream; top analysts write about it, top companies hire for it… and dozens of software companies claim to BE it.

But it’s important to note that Sales Enablement is NOT technology; Sales Enablement is a strategy to maximize sellers’ ability to communicate value and differentiation in a clear, consistent, and compelling way.

With so many vendors scrambling for a piece of the Sales Enablement pie, the lines defining what it is and why you need it have blurred.

To help establish some clarity around the now murky term, let’s go back and explore what brought us here in the first place.

The Origin of Sales Enablement

Back in 1999, sales consulting firms began to uncover a sales execution problem: too often, organizational red tape and roadblocks prevented sellers from focusing on what they were hired to do – sell.

To make matters worse, this challenge wasn’t limited to a certain industry, location, or company size; it was common and widespread amongst many organizations with a large customer-facing presence.

To address this sales execution problem, two gentlemen by the names of John Aiello and Drew Larsen began to pioneer and evangelize Sales Enablement as the way to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of salespeople.

The Emergence of Sales Enablement Technology

John and Drew developed the SAVO Sales Enablement Platform to help clients reinforce and drive process around their Sales Enablement strategies. It was built with the intention of helping companies open the lines of communications between the people creating customer-facing assets (marketing) and those charged to leverage these resources in deals (sales).

This platform automated the process of publishing, maintaining, and analyzing sales assets. With this tool, companies could:

  • Centralize all sales assets so they’re current and easy-to-find
  • Target and Align sales assets with selling situations
  • Push the best assets based on best practices and business rules
  • Leverage CRM data to generate client-specific assets
  • Customize the message, while reinforcing your brand
  • Drive adoption and content quality through embedded analytics

Taken together, this platform united the entire sales ecosystem – made up of people in marketing, product, sales ops, and training – around improving client engagements.

Impact on sales: Helped sellers become more competent and audible when meeting with customers by serving-up the best assets for every specific selling situation.

Impact on marketing: Helped marketing develop messaging and content that sellers would actually use… and automated the creation and maintenance of these assets.

The Sales Enablement Swell

In a rush to add value, solutions from adjacent spaces began seeking to address the Sales Enablement challenge through the use of their systems. Technologies with a focus on learning management, slide sharing, and video creation – to name a few – started moving into the space and caused a swell in the Sales Enablement marketplace.

This is where things started to get fuzzy.

Though these technologies can add value, they can also distract you from a long term, fully functioning sales enablement strategy that help you achieve the sales results you’re looking for.

Sales Enablement Today

Sales Enablement still focuses on maximizing sellers’ ability to communicate value in a clear, consistent, and compelling way. It’s about building a holistic plan to equip your sellers to be effective and efficient… a plan that includes much more than just throwing a piece of technology at one subset of the problem.

Today there are many vendors that offer Sales Enablement “point solutions.” Though these solutions may make it easy to whip together a presentation or create a shiny video, they are not necessarily Sales Enablement in its true form.

Point solutions are driven by short-term goals. They’re generally built by a single organization (working on behalf of sales) that identifies an acute problem and seeks a quick solution. Though they can be beneficial at times, as a whole they’re reactionary. They put a Band-Aid on an existing problem instead of finding a long-term solution.

Holistic solutions are about seeing the big picture. They’re often built to be cross-functional, uniting an array of stakeholders in the sales ecosystem, which often includes product marketing, content creators, sales ops and training. You are still able to start small, but these solutions are built to grow with you and adjust as your business needs change.

2 Approaches to Sales Enablement

Point SolutionsHolistic Solutions
Short-term, acute pain-points drive decisionsBusiness initiatives and long-term pain-points drive decisions
Built around today’s requirementsBuilt to adapt as your needs change
Remains static, despite team growthScales as your team expands


Although it can be tempting to implement a task-driven point solution, long-term Sales Enablement success requires thought and strategy to drive impactful sales results. Just how it was back in 1999, Sales Enablement is about uncovering the problem, using best practices to outline a solution, and THEN layering on technology as a support structure.

If you’re ready to implement a Sales Enablement program that is driven by business initiatives, built to adapt as your needs change and can scale as your team grows – Contact Us. We’d love to partner with you on your Sales Enablement journey.

Jillian Eyl

Jillian Eyl is the Senior Manager of Marketing Program Strategy and Design at SAVO. In this role, she develops brand positioning, manages the content and email marketing strategy, and owns demand gen programs from conception through execution. A globetrotter at heart, Jillian loves to travel, critique BBQ joints, and visit family and friends in her home state of Ohio.

1 Comment

  1. Peter Strohkorb on March 20, 2017 at 1:57 am

    I have a favorite saying: “You can have the latest technology and the most sophisticated business processes, but if your people are not with you then it will all come to nothing.”
    Technology is great, but it will never solve a business problem without people with the right mindset using it.

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